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6-minute read

Key facts

  • Tinea is a contagious skin or nail infection, caused by a fungus.
  • The infection will have a different name depending on where it lives and the type of fungus.
  • Some common infections are athlete's foot, ring worm and jock itch.

What is tinea?

Tinea is a common skin or nail infection. It is caused by a fungus.

The tinea fungus grows well in warm, moist places. Parts of your body that are warm and moist include the feet, the groin, and the scalp.

These are ideal places for tinea to grow. Other places are under the breasts and sometimes your toes and fingernails.

Most tinea infections are mild. They can be treated.

What are the types of tinea?

Tinea can infect many areas of the skin and nails. The infection has a different name depending on where it lives. The name also depends on the type of fungus.

The types of tinea include:

  • nail infection (onychomycosis) — fungus infection on your toes or fingernails
  • athlete's foot (tinea pedis) — fungus infection of the skin on your feet
  • ringworm of the scalp (tinea capitis) — a fungus infection on your head
  • ringworm of the body (tinea corporis) — a fungus infection on some part of your body
  • jock itch (tinea cruris) — a rash in the moist, warm areas of your groin

Nail infection

Nail infection

Athlete's foot

Athlete's foot



Jock itch

Jock itch

Who is at risk of tinea?

Anyone can get tinea infection.

If you do something that makes your feet sweat a lot, you can get athlete's foot. This is a type of tinea. People who play sport or wear runners (sneakers) can get athlete's foot.

You can catch tinea from the floors of showers and communal changing rooms. The tinea fungus from one person's foot can stay on the floor and infect someone else.

What are the symptoms of tinea?

The symptoms of tinea depend on where the tinea is found:

  • Skin: a red flaky rash that can crack, split and peel. The rash can spread out in a red ring. It will have normal-looking skin in the middle. This is called ‘ringworm'. The name can be confusing because this infection is not caused by a worm.
  • Feet: itchy, red blisters between your toes, cracked skin.
  • Nails: discolouration of your nails and thick, crumbly nails.
  • Groin: itchy and painful rash.
  • Head: itchy, red areas on your scalp; bald patches.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

When should I see a doctor?

You should see a doctor if:

  • treatment with anti-fungal creams has not worked
  • the tinea keeps coming back
  • you have tinea in several places over your body
  • the tinea is on your head or nails
  • you have an infection that has pus or discharge

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

How is tinea diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask. You about your symptoms and examine you. They may take a small scraping of skin. This is done to find out which fungus is causing the infection.

How is tinea treated?

Tinea is treated with anti-fungal medicines. These medicines usually come as a cream, ointment, gel or nail lacquer.

To treat tinea at home:

  • Buy an over-the-counter tinea treatment from any pharmacy. You can also buy it at some supermarkets. Speak to your pharmacist if you have questions about what to buy.
  • Follow the instructions on the packet carefully. It can take weeks or even months for tinea to clear up. It depends on the type of fungus that is causing your tinea infection.
  • Continue using the anti-fungal medication as instructed. You need to keep using it even after the tinea seems to have gone.
  • Wash your hands well after you have used the tinea treatment cream or gel.
  • Keep the infected area clean and dry. Try and get some fresh air onto the area.
  • Change your shoes, socks, stockings and bra each day.

You might need prescription tablets from a doctor. These tablets are sometimes needed if the tinea is spread over your body.

They are also sometimes used if the skin treatment has not worked or keeps coming back. Tablets might also be needed for tinea infection on the head or nails.


All medicines can have side effects. Before using tinea medicines you can ask your doctor or pharmacist about:

  • the side effects of your tinea medicines
  • their benefits
  • what to do if you miss a dose
  • what to do if you get side effects

Talk to your doctor as soon as possible if you feel unwell when taking your medicines. Do not stop or change your medicines without talking to your doctor.

You can look up information about your medicines here.

Can tinea be prevented?

Good personal hygiene can help prevent you from getting a tinea infection. Keeping your body clean will also stop the infection from spreading to other areas.

There are several things you can do to avoid getting tinea:

  • Tinea is contagious. It is important not to share towels, flannels, bathmats, treatment creams or shoes.
  • Wear thongs when showering in a communal shower.
  • After washing, dry your skin thoroughly. It is especially important to dry between your toes, in your groin and under your breasts.
  • Use antiperspirants to help control sweating.

As well as good hygiene, what you wear can also make a difference:

  • Make sure your feet are completely dry before putting on socks, stockings or tights.
  • Wear clothing made from natural fibres instead of synthetics. Natural fibres can help to reduce the amount of warm, moist skin areas.
  • Wear socks and shoes made from natural materials, such as cotton. Try to choose footwear that keeps your feet cool and dry.
  • Change your socks, tights or stockings and bra every day.

If you have tinea wash your hands well with soap and water after cleaning the infected area. This can help stop the infection spreading to other people.

Resources and support

If you speak a language other than English, you can find information on tinea on the Health Translations site.

If you have questions about tinea you can call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). A registered nurse is available to speak with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: December 2023

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